The stock market in South Korea opened higher and is trading in positive territory on Thursday morning, taking cues from Wall Street, where the major indices ended in positive territory amid choppy trading following the release of a mixed bag of economic reports as well as earnings news. The Federal Reserve's Beige Book report showed a continued economic contraction in many parts of the country, although it signaled that the contraction is slowing down.

On Wednesday, The Nasdaq ended the session up 1.08 points or 0.1% at 1,627, while the Dow jumped 109.44 points or 1.4% to 8,030 and the S&P 500 closed up 10.56 points or 1.3% at 852.

In Asian trading, crude oil is currently up $0.75 at $50.00 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $0.16 at $49.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday after an Energy Information Administration data revealed commercial crude oil inventories increased for a 25th time in 29 weeks by 5.6 million barrels to 366.7 million barrels in the week ended April 10, 2009.

The benchmark KOSPI Index opened Thursday's session at 1,356, sharply higher than its previous close of 1,333, and is currently trading at 1,370, up 2.79% or 37.16 points.

The local currency, the Won, opened higher against the greenback at 1323 Won per US$, up from 1,338 Won, and is currently quoted at 1,321 Won per US$.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Trade and Finance stated that exports from the country is expected to shrink 16% during the year 2009 to $354.5 billion from $422 billion reported for last year. Attributing a protracted global slowdown as the primary reason, the Ministry noted that imports into the country might also shrink 21% from last year.

A report released by the National Statistical Office yesterday revealed the unemployment rate increased to 4% during March from 3.9% recorded in February, as more companies are trimming their existing work force on fears of a worsening economic slowdown.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics is gaining 1.88%. Among the other technology stocks, Hynix Semiconductor is gaining 1.86%, LG Electronics is advancing 4.83%, and LG Display is adding 0.64%.

Financials are trading higher. KB Financial Group is advancing 2.93%, Shinhan Financial is gaining 2.35% and Woori Finance is rising 1.33%.

Among shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries is adding 3.11%, Samsung Heavy Industries is advancing 1.98% and Daewoo Shipping is gaining 1.91%.

In the auto space, Hyundai Motor is edging up 0.61%, Kia Motor is gaining 1.10%, and Ssangyong Motor is advancing 1.85%.

Among oil-related stocks, S-Oil is gaining 0.81% and SK Holdings is adding up 2.22%.

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